Summary of Landmark judgment

Case: Child In Conflict with Law through his Mother v. The State Of Karnataka & Anr.



Date of Order / Judgment: 7th May, 2024

The Matter Heard by Bench: Justice C.T. Ravikumar and Justice Rajesh Bindal

Background

The case involves an FIR filed against the accused for offenses under sections 376 (i), 342 of the Indian Penal Code, and sections 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012. Following the investigation, a charge sheet was submitted, leading the Board to decide whether the accused should be tried by the Board or as an adult by the Children’s Court.

A decision was made by the Board members stating that, based on the preliminary assessment report and the social investigation report, the inquiry into the alleged offence committed by the CCL was to be conducted by the Board as a juvenile. An application under Section 19 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, was filed by the complainant/mother of the victim before the Board, requesting the termination of proceedings and transferring the matter to the Children’s Court.

The CCL filed objections to this application. Subsequently, the Board dismissed the application. Aggrieved by this decision, the complainant filed a revision petition before the High Court, which was granted. The order passed by the Board was set aside, and the Board was directed to transmit the record to the Children’s Court for trial. Against this decision, the CCL then approached the Supreme Court.

Issues

Whether the period provided for completion of preliminary assessment under section 14(3) of the Act is mandatory or directory?

Observation

The Court observed that “As in the process of preliminary inquiry there is involvement of many persons, namely, the investigating officer, the experts whose opinion is to be obtained, and thereafter the proceedings before the Board, where for different reasons any of the party may be able to delay the proceedings, in our opinion the time so provided in Section 14(3) cannot be held to be mandatory, as no consequences of failure have been provided as is there in case of enquiry into petty offences in terms of Section 14(4) of the Act.”

Decision

The Supreme Court held that that the time limit of three months prescribed under Section 14(3) of the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Act, 2015 for ascertaining the mental and physical capacity of a child below the age of sixteen years to commit a serious offence is not mandatory but directory.